2 teams Thunder fans should be rooting for during final stretch of season

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz
Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages
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Utah Jazz

During the 2021 offseason, the Utah Jazz desired financial flexibility in an effort to improve their contending roster. Sensing a valuable opportunity, Sam Presti subsequently agreed to acquire Derrick Favors’ contract in exchange for a future first round pick, and the time has finally come to potentially reap the rewards. 

What makes this situation a bit controversial is the fact that the owed pick is top-ten protected this season. If Utah lands in the top ten post-lottery, then the pick morphs into a top ten protected 2025 first-rounder.

The following is Utah’s probability of landing outside of the top ten based on their regular season finish and correlated lottery odds (via Tankathon).

  • 7th worst record equals about a ~0% chance
  • 8th worst record equals about a 0.4% chance
  • 9th worst record equals about a 3.1% chance
  • 10th worst record equals about a 20.2% chance
  • 11th worst record equals about a 90.6% chance
  • 12th worst record equals about a 92.9% chance
  • 13th worst record equals about a 95.2% chance
  • 14th worst record equals about a 97.6% chance

In other words, the Thunder need Utah to finish with at least the 11th-worst record for them to likely receive the first round pick.

They still have a decent chance if Utah winds up with the 10th-worst record, but any worse than that essentially means that the Jazz retain their selection.  

Unfortunately, Utah currently owns the seventh-worst record and sits five games ahead of the 10th-worst record -- a key threshold. That’s a gap that appears to be too big to close, although it does not exclude Oklahoma City fans from wishing. 

Two wins in particular would tremendously behoove the Thunder.

First, if Utah can defeat Denver on April 9th, then it would represent a huge blow to the Nuggets’ chances of grabbing the top seed in the Western Conference. Second, a win against Houston on April 11th increases the Rockets’ probability of missing the Play-In Tournament, and the Thunder own their first-rounder. 

Overall, Oklahoma City should be rooting hard for Utah to string together victories, although it’s unlikely that they oblige.